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On chiefs and peace: Examining the role of traditional governance in sub-Saharan African conflict dynamics

Mustasilta, Katariina (2019) On chiefs and peace: Examining the role of traditional governance in sub-Saharan African conflict dynamics. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


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What role do traditional governance structures play in countries’ internal peace and conflict dynamics? While dominant approaches in conflict studies understand governance mainly through the lenses of state capacities, governance scholars have increasingly payed attention to non-state governance structures. Particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, traditional governance structures, e.g. traditional and indigenous leadership, chieftaincies, kings and headmen, are de facto relevant in providing governance and exercising political influence alongside and beyond the state. This thesis expands research on hybrid governance by examining comparatively how traditional forms of governance influence sub-Saharan African conflict dynamics. I argue that in order to understand this relationship, we need to discern the variation in the institutional context and internal composition of traditional institutions. Three chapters build on and develop this theoretical approach: The first chapter focuses on the institutional interaction between the state and traditional governance. The chapter builds a typology of this interaction and demonstrates that a country’s intrastate peace stands on a firmer ground when the state accommodates and integrates traditional governance structures. The second chapter zooms into local political dynamics and analyses the way contested traditional authority structures fuel local unrest by increasing grievances and providing opportunities to mobilise against the incumbent authorities. The third chapter maintains the disaggregated approach and looks at how local strength of customary institutions influences the vulnerability of a locality to armed violence against civilians. The thesis contributes to a more nuanced understanding of governance and conflict dynamics by 1) placing theoretical focus on the conditions shaping the contemporary role of traditional governance, 2) deploying novel data on traditional governance structures in sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa in particular, and 3) analysing the relationship between traditional governance and conflict at multiple levels of analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Katariina Mustasilta
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2019 08:54
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2019 08:54

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